How To Survive Montanita on $5 a Day

Montanita Ecuador photos
surf anyone?

Montañita is a wildly popular destination for those backpacking through South America . Set on Ecuador’s Ruta del Sol, Montañita’s white stretch of sand and raw backpacker vibe encourages travelers to stay for weeks or months on end.

If you’ve been longing to indulge in a gourmet meal or stock up on funky souvenirs, Montañita offers a million ways to blow your budget.

However, even with the rampant temptation this beach bum haven provides, the disciplined backpacker can survive on just $5 a day.

Who Needs A Room?

The majority of Montañita’s long-term foreign residents are living on one of the cheap campgrounds a few blocks from the center of the action. Showers, a kitchen, tents available for rent, and a sense of community all come at just $1.50 a day – it doesn’t get much cheaper than that. The campsites are located off the highway across from the bridge.

The $1.50 Lunch

me eating the $1.50 lunch (and then writing about it)

While your mouth waters for comfort foods from home, your wallet doesn’t allow for it. There are at least two places that offer a $1.50 lunch that will keep you full until the sun sets. Two are on 15 de Mayo between the church and the corner and have signs outside that advertise the low-budget lunch.

Speaking of Cheap Food…

A group of penny pinchers can pinch pennies better than one penny pincher pinching pennies alone (say that three times fast). Round up a few people from the campsite and cook together. Depending on the size of the group, $1 per person will get you enough rice, pasta, and veggies for a gut-busting dinner with plenty of leftovers and a couple of new friends.

Get a Job

Montanita Ecuador photos
local jewelry seller

While turning your vacation into a working holiday might not have been in the plans, Montañita is a great place to earn a few extra dollars. Whether you’re a talented artesano, juggle fire, play the didgeridoo, or make a mean fruit salad, Montañita has a thousand opportunities for budding entrepreneurs. Thanks to the small local population and high demand for staff, a lot of the bigger restaurants and bars regularly hire backpackers, especially in popular times like the end of the year.

Say No to Cover

For being a tiny town, Montañita offers a variety of nightlife options, from rock bars to wine bars to decked-out nightclubs. On special event nights, some of the better bars charge a cover to enter. Skip the $3 fee and head to one that’s free. Try the cabañas on the beach just around the corner from Nativa Bambu. You can pick the one with the hottest DJ and shake it like a salt shaker without paying anything.

The Best Things Are Free

Montanita Ecuador photos
watching the sunset

When you’re not passing out flyers or doing backbends on the street to make end’s meet, the hot days and long nights give you plenty of time to burn. You can sit on the curb with a few jewelry makers and people watch, hit the beach for the sunset, and check out the nightly street show without opening up your wallet. The most interesting things to do in Montañita are completely free (though the performers do appreciate a tip).

Learn From the Pros

Finding the cheapest stuff is easy when you tap into the long-term backpacking crowd. The footwork for finding the tienda with the cheapest bottled water, the fruit seller offering bargain prices for bananas, and how to eat breakfast with just coins in your purse has already been done. All you have to do is ask.

Are you a Montañita junkie? How do you stretch your dollars?

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